Arroyo Grande battle over interchange gets ugly
December 13, 2015
OPINION by JULIE TACKER
Even though former Arroyo Grande mayor Tony Ferrara and former city manager Steve Adams have been forced out of leadership positions in Arroyo Grande, the new city manager appears to be taking direction from an employee tied to a sex scandal with Adams, and not the current city council.
For much of the year since Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill has been in office, an important topic of discussion has been how to fix the clogged Brisco Road interchange. Ferrara and Adams had pushed for a new exit south of the current Brisco Road exit at a cost of over $20 million.
Currently, the north bound ramps are closed, via a permit, and a study is ongoing to see if a new exit is needed, the ramps should reopen, or if the city should keep the northbound exit closed permanently to avoid gridlock.
Mayor Hill, an engineer, has studied the complex issues surrounding the projects long history and was pleased to get a traffic study underway which temporarily closed the north bound on and off-ramps. Weeks have gone by since the closure; the intersection is now a pleasure to use. There have been a few complaints, but the support for the closure has been overwhelming.
Kudos to all who have submitted input, the city continues to encourage feedback by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may remember, Hill and Councilman Jim Guthrie penned an opinion piece last September explaining the importance of the study.
However, new City Manager Dianne Thompson appears to be working on behalf of the old guard and Community Development Director Teresa McClish, the woman caught in a compromising situation with the former city manager.
Thompson is battling against waiting for the study to come back before the off-ramp closure permit expires. She has refused to allow Hill to put an extension of the closure permit on the agenda before the permit expires in January and the ramp is reopened at a cost to the taxpayers of about $100,000.
Instead of considering the cost, Thompson recommends reopening the ramps a few days prior to the release of the final report.
At the Dec. 8, Arroyo Grande City Council meeting, both Hill and Councilman Tim Brown asked that the Brisco Interchange project be agendized. Hill had asked Thompson repeatedly before the meeting to put the item on the council’s agenda.
Hill’s concern was that the Caltrans permit would expire without the benefit of a public discussion. He was told he needed a majority of the council to have the matter agendized.
During the council’s closing comments, Brown made a motion to agendize a discussion of the project at their next meeting. The city attorney asked if there was consensus among the council to agendize the item.
It appeared there was, but just as it seemed to be affirmed, Thompson informed the council, the project was scheduled for the January 12 agenda. This will be the council’s first meeting of the new year, but it’s also one day after the ramps will be reopened.
Unfortunately, the council didn’t push Thompson to suggest they would need a special meeting prior to Jan. 12 to consider the matter. Apparently, the city manager was unaware or was hiding the fact, that California Government Code 54956(a) states, “A special meeting may be called at any time by the presiding officer of the legislative body of a local agency.”
Hill has the authority to call a special meeting; it is safe to expect a special meeting in the coming week. However, the taxpayers will have to cover the cost of a special meeting because Thompson refused to allow the item to be discussed at a regular meeting before the permit expires.
Much of the Five Cities uses the Brisco intersection to access the Walmart shopping hub. San Luis Obispo Council of Governments and city funding is involved; these are taxpayer dollars and should be used wisely. It is not wise to spend the people’s money unnecessarily.
Allow the study results to come back before hastily reopening the interchange. Let commuters enjoy easy access to shopping and restaurants, where more tax dollars are generated and can be applied to much needed city services.
And Thompson would be wise to remember, the citizens of Arroyo Grande voted out both the former mayor and a long-term councilman in an attempt to rid the city of old boy politics in favor of what is best for the public as a whole.
All who are interested are encouraged to contact city officials, let them know your thoughts on the closure of the ramps. You are invited to send emails or attend the special meeting. Please look to the city’s website for the time and date in the coming days.
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